Children have started self-harming and thinking about suicide because of the cost of living crisis, new research shows.
The Childhood Trust, London’s Child Poverty Charity, has today released a national report which has revealed the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on disadvantaged children and young people, and is warning that the UK is on the brink of a mental health crisis amongst millions of children.
National research found 47% of parents said that their kids are stressed out about the living crisis: over 1 in 5 (22%) said they’re more angry, whilst 21% said they smile less. Almost 1 in 10 (9%) have started self-harming and 8% have displayed suicidal tendencies highlighting the dramatic extent this crisis is having on children.
The persistent anxiety for both their own and their parents’ well-being, as well as experiencing a lack of basic resources such as food and toiletries is taking a highly emotional toll on children and has long-term implications for their mental health. A third of parents asked said their children have raised concerns about the cost of living and a quarter of parents said they need to sacrifice fun activities with their children so they can afford essentials. Children already living in poverty prior to the pandemic are especially vulnerable and feel unable to further burden their already stressed parents with their own worries.
Laura, age 7, said: “When I feel hungry, I ask my mother if we have any food and then she’ll tell me if there’s enough money or not. If there isn’t then I just go in the cupboards and see if there’s something and if there’s a snack, then I’ll just eat it and try to go to bed. Tomorrow she might have some more money”.
Half (53%) of the people asked said they know someone who has taken their own lives, attempted or thought about it.
Of the charities surveyed, 85% predicted that the number of people accessing their services would increase due to food poverty over the next 6 months. Charities identified lack of income, increased food prices and increased fuel costs as being the primary factors driving food poverty in those using their service. Collectively 60% of the children supported by these charities are already experiencing food poverty.
Rising costs are especially concerning for people on low incomes (including those renting their homes, those who are not workings and are parents of dependent children) who report being the least able to afford unexpected but necessary expenses.
Laura, age 9, said “Your emotions just drown you and the only emotion that’s left is sad.”
When asked, 91% said that the financial situation of their most vulnerable clients had worsened in the last 6 months (October 2021 – April 2022) and 94% expected it to worsen further in the next 6 months (April – September 2022). The overall research report consists of data collected from a national survey, London specific charities who collectively represent over 70,000 children living in poverty, and also interviews with both parents and children living in poverty.
The Childhood Trust is today launching its 3rd Champions for Children campaign that will run for one week from the 14th – 21st June 2022 aiming to raise £3,500,000 to provide a comprehensive programme of vitally needed services to meet the practical and emotional needs of more than 150,000 vulnerable and disadvantaged children from July 2021 through to July 2022.
Laurence Guinness, Chief Executive, The Childhood Trust, said: “After a decade of cuts and shrinking welfare support the government’s response to the cost-of-living crisis amounts to a sticking plaster on the gaping wound of growing inequality. Ever increasing numbers of children are going hungry and can’t sleep at night because they’re worried and anxious about their futures. It’s only thanks to the generosity of donors and the thousands of charities supporting children that we aren’t facing a humanitarian crisis on our own doorsteps.”
Susan Rudnick, Art Psychotherapist, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Trust, Founder & Director, Latimer Community Art Therapy said: “What we’re seeing here because of the cost of living crisis is an exacerbation of issues such as self-harming and suicidal ideation. Young people are feeling like they’re losing all hope. They’re struggling to find an available adult that can help and support them because parents and families are in such crisis.”